Monday, April 18, 2005

Fixing Education, One Salmon at a Time

I know I’m overdue on getting more of the platform of my campaign for king out, but I’ve been busy enjoying the fact that spring has finally arrived at Chez Idiot. Beautiful spring days should definitely have priority over work, or even pseudo-work. Write that one down, you can use that when I’m the king and your boss asks you why you didn’t come in to the office.

Actually, I had no idea what I was going to discuss, and then Yahoo News! came through with some help. First, there was an article about a Caribbean cruise that was hit by a giant wave. It was coming back to New York from the Bahamas when it was hit by a seven story wave that broke a couple of windows and flooded a bunch of cabins. The part that caught my eye was this:
James Fraley, who was taking a honeymoon cruise with his wife, said they called their loved ones as the wave pounded the boat because they thought the ship was going down.
"It was pure hell. We're talking 47-foot waves hitting
the 10th floor, knocking Jacuzzis on the 12th floor overboard — people sleeping in hallways in life jackets," Fraley told WCBD-TV in Charleston. "Just pure pandemonium."

And yet: Each passenger on the ship got a refund of half the trip's cost and a voucher for half the price of a future cruise, Robison said.
And also: Fraley said cruise ship employees also opened the bar. "They tried giving free alcohol away to make up for it," he said. "That's not going to do it."

Actually, I think Mr. Fraley is mistaken. Free alcohol, especially on a cruise ship, would go a long way with this Village Idiot. Throw in the fact that the company is also basically giving everyone on board a free cruise, and free drinks, and I think Mr. Fraley should quit whining. The Village Idiot got dysentery on his honeymoon. Now THAT was “pure pandemonium”.

The cruise ship’s peril was an interesting diversion, but the meat and potatoes of this morning’s news with regard to my campaign involves Albert Einstein. There were 200 years between super genius Isaac Newton and Mr. Einstein, and people are apparently on the lookout for the next super genius. The part of the article that I found compelling went like this:
One crucial aspect of Einstein's training that is overlooked, says Notre Dame science historian Don Howard, is the years of philosophy he read as a teenager — Kant, Schopenhauer and Spinoza, among others. It taught him to how to think independently and abstractly about space and time, Howard says, and it wasn't long before he became a philosopher himself. "The independence created by philosophical insight is — in my opinion — the mark of distinction between a mere artisan or specialist and a real seeker after truth," Einstein wrote in 1944.

Here in the U.S., we won’t be producing any philosophers anytime soon, because our schools have to spend most of their time preparing kids for standardized achievement tests. Politicians love to promise that they’ll fix the woes of education, which in the minds of the politicians means making kids take tests to demonstrate what they’ve learned. Many states require that kids pass some sort of proficiency test in order to graduate from high school, and as a result, many schools are sent into panic mode to ensure that they can get their kids through those tests. In the end, education suffers, primarily because teachers have to focus on material that is of no interest or relevance to anyone, namely, how to pass the graduation test. Think I’m exaggerating? Another story in Yahoo News! today is about the fact that Jayne Gibbs, Principal at Edward E. Parry Edison Junior Academy, was placed on a paid leave Thursday after eighth graders at the school said she had given them answers to questions on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment test. It’s not uncommon for American schools to spend most of their resources to get kids through the tests that states require them to pass, and with the No Child Left Behind law, the problems become even worse. Add the idiocy of the SAT, ACT and the various achievement tests and there’s very little education going on in our schools that can make kids excited about learning, let alone turn them into philosophers. Schools that don’t make certain standards lose money, and then they have to cut programs. Library programs, music programs and art programs are usually the first to go. I quote again from the Einstein article:
And he was an accomplished musician. The interplay between music and math is well-known. Einstein would furiously play his violin as a way to think through a knotty physics problem.
Great, we cut all those music programs so that our kids could focus on filling in bubbles.

My youngest kid’s teacher isn’t paying any attention to the silliness. She has the class exercise by making them walk around the school’s track. She has a worm farm in the classroom and the kids have learned about composting and vermiculture. She went out and got a grant and has hatched 300 atlantic salmon in a special tank in her room with the class this year. (Tomorrow night they’re having a bon voyage party for the salmon before they’re released into a local river). My kid absolutely loves school as a result. She gets up in a far better mood than past years and comes home excited about whatever it was they learned at school. This is the first year she’s been excited about reading, and I have to say that I owe it 100% to the teacher.

When I’m king, we’re going to throw out all standardized tests. Teacher salaries will go through the roof and school budgets will explode. We need teachers who are genuinely excited about what they teach, not teachers who are stressed out, depressed, and overloaded with silly and pointless paperwork. We need principals who are good at encouraging teachers to enrich our kids, not bureaucrats who hide in offices and fill out state forms. The SAT, ACT and all of the other standardized tests have been a cash cow for companies, consultants and gurus who do everything but teach. Those people will have to go out and find honest work when I’m king.


Still Another Dude said...


1) Please share more of this dysentery story. Everybody I know that has had the illness contracted it in an interesting fashion. E.g., One friend got it while on the lam after getting thrown out of an Egyptian town for sleeping with the police chief's daughter. Another friend of mine got in Morroco when he was there to smuggle some hash.

2) Aren't they at least going eat one of the salmon? Whatever happened to the days when little girls where treated to the joy that is Home Ec? Did the tank make the room smell of fish poop; how did your kid like that?

3) As one who has sailed a bit (not cruised, sailed) I think those people on he cruise boat should have been charged extra. Isn't the whole point of going to sea to discover the awe, wonder, and stunning power of nature (while drinking, of course)? What could be better demonstrate all those things than a 70 foot wave? All I can think of is an 80 foot wave. (Or, a cute and slutty mermaid.)

4) Worry not about your good weather my friend, the northern Rockies are expecting 6"-10" of snow by week's end. Once again you (and all your neighbors in Bozeman) will be happily shovelling snow soon enough.

5) How come the Blog is titled "RantINGS, RavINGS and the Occasional Kicked PuppY" but the URL is "rantandraveandpuppIES". Is it Rant or Rants, Rave or Raves, and Puppy or Puppies? I appreciate the use of the gerund, it's a lost art among today's bloggers. But hobbgoblins like consistencey in matters like this are important (especially if a king wishes to communicate effectively with the the little minds). If you ever wish to make more of yourself than a simple ranch hand, you will need to pay attention to this type of stuff.

That's enough run on sentences from me, for now.

Some Guy,
Your faithful reader, and ever so quick to comment, from Lompoc CA

Lompoc's Wittiest said...


I fear my rude remark to Jenni leaves me as your *only* reader. Therefore I am not only the loudest of your readers but also the:

* Smartest
* Tallest
* Bravest
* Most Sublime
* Sexiest

and of course...

* Quietest.

You'll note my inclusion of Bravery in the attribute list. Why? Because I am NOT AFRAID OF GERUNDS! Now when we start talking about prepositional phases involving seperable verbs in the German language, or the proper use of the subjunctive mood in any language...then I cower in fear.

You will have a peaceful week to build your readership next week -- I'll be at sea for a bit. Use it wisely. I'm sure you can builda loyal fan base so large that you can be a syndicated columnist by month's end. (Then of course you can take lots of money from govenment departments to shill for the agenda item du jour.)

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